Here is what works for me. I've fond the key is LIGHT strokes. How light is light? I always heard "using only the weight of the blade" to describe a light stroke. I feel that is too much pressure on some of the larger knives. So find the balance point of the knife and hold the knife on the handle side of the balance point so the blade end is the heaviest by just a little. With that in mind let the blade down on the stone. You can tell how you can effectively use less pressure than the weight of the blade depending on where you hold the knife very lightly with your fingers. Now, with this in mind when you feel like you are done using stones and ready to strop do a final PUSH STROKE on the stone on one side of the edge with as little amount of pressure that is possible. I emphasize push strokes because in my mind (even if it isn't true) using a push stroke will eliminate the possibility of straightening a burr. Straightening a burr is bad because the steel (burr) that has been folded out straight is weaker steel and will break off quicker during use. When a knife feels sharp because the burr has been straighteneed and the straightened burr breaks off during use it can leave the impression that that steel has poor edge retention. The extremely light push stroke should remove any really tiny burr on that side of the edge even when you can't detect it easily. The burr should be removed, ground off, abraded off or any way you want to say it. Not straightened IMO. Also, the extremely light stroke should be light enough to NOT form a burr on the other side of the edge. Then do the same final stroke on the other side of the edge. I feel by doing these last two single strokes I will remove any microscopic burr that is there even when I can't see it or feel it. THEN try to push cut some paper. I like phone book paper because it's so flimsy (and someone drops off about 5 of them at my house every year
). If the edge won't push cut paper now it may just need a couple strokes on a strop. Again, the amount of pressure should be controlled the same way as on the stones.
The difference in the edge as I progress through grits is evident when push cutting, or I like to call it "drop cutting" from one strop to another. "Drop cutting" is what I call it when I don't use any downward force. The edge just drops (cuts) into the edge of the paper. But under normal use I can't tell any difference between an edge finished with a 1 micron strop or a .1 micron strop. They are all just sharp.
This works for me but others may have different techniques to get a light stroke or a sharp edge. I am NOT the most experienced and have only been push cutting paper for about 8-10 months or so. I've gotten some real good advice from Ken Schwartz as well as other info on this forum. I've gotten some really good quality sharpening stones/strops also. And I've practiced a lot. I bet you are moments away from all of a sudden the edge just "falls" into the paper without any slicing motion. Improvement seems to happen to me in BANGS. Constant practice for a long time with no significant improvement and then BANG, my edges are suddenly MUCH sharper than they were yesterday.
I don't know if this helps at all.